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St. Louis Cardinals: Matt Adams should not push Matt Carpenter to third

Matt Adams

“A person, thing, or situation that can at any moment cause much havoc or result in a disastrous outcome.”

If you’ve been following the St. Louis Cardinals through their first nine games this season that definition probably brings one thing to mind. Matt Adams in left field. The definition of course, is of a ticking time bomb. It seems to be a matter of when and not if Adams will cost them a game defensively.

In borderline infuriating news, the Cardinals seem prepared to keep running Matt Adams out there in left field. They have somehow gotten away with it so far as Adams hasn’t seen much more than the routine fly ball. Now, the team is planning to bring in Willie McGee to help teach Adams the ropes in the outfield. The only positive spin I can put on this entire situation is that the team at least acknowledges that he needs help out there.

Fans can see the circus that’s likely to commence in left field in the near future. It has caused everyone to look for better alternatives to get Adams in the lineup. The most common one I see is to move Matt Carpenter to third base and play Adams at first base. While this is surely a better option than what they’re currently trying, I am against this switch as well for several reasons.

Carpenter needs to stay at first base

Matt Carpenter is currently the Cardinals best hitter. He is something that Adams is not: a core piece of this team. Carpenter is signed through the 2019 season with a $18.5 million option for 2020.

The team made finding a consistent position for Carp a priority this offseason and stated early in the offseason that he would be their everyday first baseman. They need him to be at least average defensively somewhere on the diamond and there’s a pretty decent track record that says third base isn’t that place.

For his career Carpenter has a -8 Defensive Runs Saved, -6.7 UZR and -2.6 UZR/150 in 3555.2 innings at the hot corner. These aren’t atrocious number, but they are below average nonetheless. At first base his numbers are closer to average and the team seems to believe there is room for him to improve there.

Why is it so necessary to get Adams in the lineup?

Big City showed some promise in 2013 when he belted 17 home runs in 319 plate appearances. It seems like Mike Matheny is still banking on the promise he showed four years ago. For his career Adams is a .269/.314/.452 hitter with a 110 wRC+. He is coming off of a season in 2016 in which he slashed .249/.309/.471 with a 106 wRC+. This amounts to an above average hitter.

So now the question, why is Matheny so willing to sacrifice defense for a slightly above average hitter? The Cardinals may not have the elite bat that many teams have, but their roster has above average hitters almost top to bottom.

Greg Garcia is perfect for the lefty in a platoon

Before I go any further, I would like to point out that Zach Gifford was all over this at the beginning of spring training. Garcia should be playing third base every day against right handed pitchers. Since the idea is that Adams would be mostly playing first base against RHP’s let’s do a little comparison between the two.

Career vs. RHP’s

Garcia .265 .389 .374 112
Adams .282 .331 .476 121

2016 vs. RHP’s

Garcia .287 .414 .392 122
Adams .243 .310 .462 105

Adams has hit righties very well for his career but has been trending down in his most recent seasons. Garcia, on the other hand, has been an on-base machine (.414!). These are two completely different hitters that seem to rate fairly equally overall. If you want power, go with Adams. If you want OBP, go with Garcia.

The kicker is when you factor in defense. Garcia hasn’t logged a ton of innings at third base in the majors, but when he’s played there he has rated very highly with a 16.5 UZR/150.

When you look at it as Carpenter at first and Garcia at third vs. Adams at first and Carpenter at third, the answer is obvious to me. Carpenter and Garcia is the better option.

Against lefties Carp will still be in there and some combination of Jhonny Peralta and Jedd Gyorko can be used at the hot corner.

Matt Adams brings value off the bench

I don’t know what makes a player good at pinch hitting but whatever it is, Adams has it. For his career Adams has slashed .324/.352/.588 with a 153 wRC+ as a pinch hitter. This is elite production and by far the best on the team. Having a player that can pinch hit like this also comes with a huge advantage, you can decide where he hits. If he were in the starting lineup there’s a decent chance he comes up to bat with nobody on base a lot. As a pinch hitter there would be no reason to use him in that situation unless it’s a tie game or you’re down by a run. This can bring huge value to the team over the course of a season.

Matt Adams has a very important role on this team. Right now, it should be off the bench. Players need days off and as the Cardinals know all too well, injuries happen. The at-bats will be there for Adams, there is no reason to be forcing them at the expense of the defense.

Thanks for reading!

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